Friday, August 12, 2011

My Review of “Divinity of Doubt” by Vincent Bugliosi

Few minor problems interspersed in a sea of profound, irrefutable points and excellent questions that Christians have refused to answer [and will continue refusing to] describes Bugliosi’s latest work

by Larry Simons
August 12, 2011

It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I consider former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi not just one of my favorite authors, but high on my list of all time most common sense critical thinkers of our day. Like me, Bugliosi is a devout and unapologetic agnostic when it comes to a belief in a higher power, specifically the Christian God of the bible.

I have just finished reading his latest masterpiece, Divinity of Doubt: The God Question, and I must say it is by far one of the most profound books on religion I have ever read. Not just because I agree with most of Bugliosi’s points and agree with the questions he puts to Christians, but because I cannot see how anyone can disagree with his points and questions [no doubt Christians will claim they disagree by default, because Bugliosi criticizes their religion and beliefs, but will this translate to an actual refutation of Bugliosi’s points? Don’t hold your breath]. They are irrefutable, and not just in my opinion. I will give you multiple examples in this review [well, this is more like a sneak preview/”highlights” of the book than it is a review].

Since I only had a few minor issues with the book, I will begin with those.

Maybe the strongest disagreement I had with Bugliosi is his assertion in Chapter 7 [“Genesis”] that he claims that there is a contradiction in Genesis chapter 1 where it says God created man and woman on the sixth day after every other form of life, but in chapter 2 it says Adam was the first form of life created. I disagree that this is a contradiction because when I looked at the actual text of the passage reference he provided [Genesis 2: 19-20] it says this:

“Now the Lord God had formed out of all the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air”.

Bugliosi’s error here is that although he is probably correctly interpreting Genesis chapters 1 and 2 in chronological order [beasts and birds created first, then Adam], the fact that God mentions Adam first in chapter 2, then the beasts and birds [in that order] does not mean the bible is saying Adam was created first [before beasts and birds]. Bugliosi completely ignores the word “had” in the above verse. The word had indicates that the writer of Genesis is making a back reference to what had already been created, thus no contradiction. Maybe this was not Bugliosi’s error. Maybe the version he used did not include the word "had".

But, this is a minor issue and does not come anywhere near shattering Bugliosi’s credibility on the hundreds of excellent points he makes about the bible and God.

Another issue I had with Bugliosi is his several references to Abraham Lincoln, as if Lincoln is someone to be admired or even quoted. In fact, in chapter 16 [page 219] he uses the often quoted Lincoln quote “You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time…”. Problem is Lincoln never said this according to Professors Paul F. Boller, Jr. and John George in their book They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes and Misleading Attributions.

Another issue I had was in chapter 12 [his chapter on the silliness of the Catholic church]. Bugliosi starts off by making a very good point about the fact that Isaiah’s use of the word [in Isaiah 7:14 where it prophesizes about Jesus’ birth] that describes the mother of a child “almah” [meaning, “young woman”] was changed in Septuagint [the 3rd century translation of the Hebrew into Greek] to the word “parthenos” [meaning “young woman” or “virgin”], it somehow became known as only “virgin” in modern Greek. The correct Hebrew word that Isaiah should have used if describing a “virgin” would have been “betulah”. Bugliosi makes a very good point that if Jesus was really born to a virgin, why didn’t Isaiah use the CORRECT Hebrew word [betulah] for “virgin”?

My issue comes when Bugliosi says this:

“Does that mean that Jesus couldn’t nonetheless be the messiah? No, since the term messiah in Judaism simply means a savior sent by God to deliver his people, the Jews, from suffering and injustice. But it does mean that if his birth was not a virgin birth, then he was the son of a mortal man and woman [here, presumably, Mary and Joseph] and by definition not the Son of God.”

My problem with this comes with the fact that nowhere in Christianity does it teach that Mary and Joseph were immortal. The position of Christianity is that Mary was chosen because she was the most godly and most favored by God, not because she was immortal. I do know that Catholicism attributes divinity to Mary, and this is why they are fools, but nowhere in Protestantism does it claim Mary and Joseph were immortal [or wouldn’t they still be alive?]

These were minor issues. Now, let’s move on to the highlights of the book.

In chapter 3 [“The Christian God Cannot Exist”] he raises these important issues:

After asking why God refused to help the 6 million Jews who were exterminated in the Holocaust, he says:

“If God, per Old Testament, could intervene and inflict the many horrendous plagues on the innocent people of Egypt to get their pharaoh to let Moses lead his people out of Egypt to the promised land of Canaan, why is it that he hasn’t lifted his hand to impose his will on the tyrants of history to end their unspeakable crimes against humanity, crimes much worse, and involving much greater numbers of people, than the slavery that pharaoh was imposing on the Jews?”

In this same chapter, Bugliosi also points out something I had never realized: that there is no biblical support for the age-old concept of free will. I had always believed/assumed there was. Bugliosi not only asserts there is not, but proves it with several bible passages.

Here are a few:

Romans 9:18 “God chooses to make some people refuse to listen”

Exodus 4:21, 7:3 “I will make Pharaoh stubborn so he will not let the people go”

Isaiah 63:17 “Why, Lord, dost thou cause us to stray from they ways?”

Romans 11:32 “God consigns all men to disobedience so he may have mercy on them”

Often in the book, Bugliosi is just plain humorous immediately after making a very interesting or profound point, such as:

“What do these horrible deaths [of the bubonic plague] have to do with the victims’ exrcise of free will? Do you know what Christians say to this? These horrors are caused by Satan. Or, get this. Some actually say these horrors resulted because God, after creating the universe, somehow became weak and powerless to prevent them. My, my. When does the silliness end when it comes to Christianity? Answer: It doesn’t.”

Interesting points in chapter 6 [“The Intelligence of Intelligent Design and First Cause”] are as follows:

Bugliosi mentions that several Christian authors speak of examples of “constants”. You’ve heard these before, when Christians attempt to prove God’s existence by saying things like, “If the sun was 1% closer to the Earth, we’d all burn up and if the sun was 1% farther away, we’d all freeze” [thus proving intelligent design]. Bugliosi says that the Christian authors he mentions say there are 122 of these “constants”. Bugliosi brilliantly dismisses these “constants” by saying this:

“If God, per Christianity, is all-powerful and all-intelligent and can bring about whatever he pleases, why in the world would he create this incredibly complex system of 122 constants to provide life on earth? You mean he couldn’t create an earth that was self-sustaining and relied on none of these things? That he’s not, after all, all-powerful and without limitation? Remember, supposedly he can do anything and nothing is beyond him. (“Nothing is impossible with God” [Luke 1:37].) The fact that there ARE 122 constants out there [any of which, if deviated from in the smallest way, would cause our life on earth to cease] is, to me, very powerful circumstantial evidence not that it was God who created all these constants, but just the opposite, that not one of them has anything to do with the Christian God of people’s imagination.”

Bugliosi goes on to describe his views on what he calls the strongest argument for the existence of God: the argument of first cause. He closes the chapter by saying that the arguments on both sides of the first cause issue are good, but that there is no direct evidence or persuasive circumstantial evidence on either side. He says the mystery of the existence of God will never be solved, therefore the only intelligent position to take is agnosticism.

In chapter 7 [“Genesis”] Bugliosi makes a great point about the fact that there is no evidence that Moses authored any of the first 5 books of the Old Testament [which nearly all Christians believe he has], unless Moses is speaking in the third person [“the Lord said to Moses”].

Bugliosi says that there is no way Moses could have authored the fifth book, Deuteronomy, unless by some miracle Moses could have jotted down his own death [since Deuteronomy mentions Moses’ death in Chapter 34, verse 10-11 saying, “Since then, no prophet has arisen in Israel like Moses”]. Awfully hard for Moses to not only write about his own death, but the fact that there there were no prophets in Israel like Moses after his death? How would Moses know that?

Bugliosi makes a very strong point about the fact that in Genesis 1:3, God has already created light to separate day and night. It says, “Let there be light, and there was light”. This was the first day. Then, in verse 14-18, he creates the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day. This begs the question, “What was the light source on the first day?” Most, if not all, Christians will say, “the light was God himself”, but that argument falls on its face when you consider the wording in verse 1, “Let there be light”. If the light was God himself, it would have not been required to be spoken into existence by the commandment, “Let there be light”. Where am I wrong? It was an excellent point by Bugliosi.

Another excellent point by Bugliosi is when he wonders about God’s supposed all-knowing ability when he mentions in Genesis 3:8 that Adam and Eve hide from God and God asks Adam, “Where are you?”. Then God asks Adam if he has eaten the fruit he had commanded Adam not to eat. Bugliosi says, “God, all-knowing, didn’t know whether Adam had eaten the fruit”. Great point.

Even if Christians want to say that God only asked where Adam was and if he had eaten the fruit to test Adam’s integrity [to see if he’d tell the truth], that argument still fails when one considers that God is not only supposed to be all-knowing, but he is supposed to know the future. Since God supposedly knows the future, wouldn’t God already know that Adam would or would not tell the truth? It’s just so silly, this book of Genesis.

Bugliosi makes the same point about God not knowing whether the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were evil [Genesis 18:20-21] and not knowing beforehand that Abraham would pass the test and attempt to kill his own son [Genesis22:1-12]. He says this:

“I don’t get it, Is God admitting he’s not God? Or did God, at some point after Genesis, develop the ability to be all-knowing? Apparently not. After Genesis, he’s still pulling into gas stations asking for directions”. He makes the point that later in Exodus, God tells the Jews in Egypt to smear blood on their front doors so he’ll know not to kill the occupants. Why wouldn’t God know this without blood being on the doors?

Bugliosi points out God saying in Genesis 6:7 that he was “grieved that I have made them [mankind]”, so Bugliosi asks, “But if God is omniscient, which includes having foreknowledge, why did he create them in the first place?"

Good question.

In chapter 8 [“Born-again Christians and Their Remarkable Beliefs”], Bugliosi presents yet another interesting point on the issue of being “born-again”. He mentions the famous dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus. He says, “When Jesus himself tried to explain to Nicodemus, a learned Jewish elder, the whole concept of being born-again and how being born-again was necessary for salvation, Nicodemus, totally perplexed by the obvious craziness of it all, asked Jesus, “What do you mean?”, causing Jesus to respond, “You are a respected Jewish teacher and yet you don’t understand these things?” [John 3:10]” Bugliosi then adds, “Why doesn’t any religious writer go on to point out that if a respected Jewish teacher couldn’t understand this metaphysical absurdity, with Jesus Christ himself as his teacher, how can God expect the average human being to be able to?”

In chapter 9 [“Jesus Died for Whom and for What?”], Bugliosi makes another great point that apparently rejecting Jesus as the Son of God is far worse than actually murdering him. He says, “Jesus, on the cross, said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:24). If Jesus could forgive those who murdered him, how can he not forgive those who commit the infinitely lesser sin of not believing he is the Son of God and their savior, instead of condemning those to hell (Mark 16:16)”

Bugliosi also wonders, as agnostic Bill Maher does, why God just doesn’t defeat the devil. He says, “Since God is all-powerful, why wouldn’t he just wave his hand and destroy the devil? Why would he permit his son to be nailed on the cross to do so? God is supposed to be all-intelligent, is he not?”

Bugliosi mentions in chapter 11 [“The Many Absurdities of Christianity”] a litany of biblical contradictions. Here are just a few:

Genesis 6:6 God is sorry he made the human race the way he did
James 1:17 God “never changes”

Exodus 33:11 God speaks to Moses “face to face”
John 1:18 “No one has ever seen God”

Jeremiah 17:4 God’s anger lasts “forever”
Psalm 30:5 His anger lasts “but a moment”

Psalm 25:8 We are told the Lord is all-good
Isaiah 45:7 the Lord says, “I create woe”

James 5:11 We are told the Lord is merciful
Deuteronomy 7:16 he instructs Moses to “show no mercy” to the enemies of the Israelites

Proverbs 8:17 the Lord says, “Everyone who seeks me finds me”
Proverbs 1:38 the Lord says that for those who had rejected him, they will thereafter “seek me but not find me”

John 3:13 It is written “No man hath ascended up to heaven but he that came down from heaven, the Son of Man”
2 Kings 2:11 “Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind”

Proverbs 3:13 says “Happy is the man who finds wisdom”
Ecclesiastes 1:18 says “The greater one’s wisdom, the greater the grief. To increase knowledge only increases sorrow”

Bugliosi then in chapter 11 proceeds to inform us that the Old Testament God is far different than the New Testament one. The former was monstrous and vindictive, while the latter was compassionate and forgiving.

Here are just a few of the monstrous acts of the Old Testament God [according to Bugliosi] inflicts on mankind

1. Sending a flood to destroy all mankind, except for 8 people

2. God orders Moses to kill 24,000 Israelites for idolatry and sleeping with Midianite women [Numbers 25:1-9]

3. Sending Moses later to kill all Midianite men, women and children [Numbers 31:2-3, 7, 9-10, 15-18]

4. Sending Joshua to slaughter all 31 kings and all the people in those kingdoms for being hostile to the Israelites [Joshua 10:1-43]

5. Sending Saul to kill the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, etc for opposing Israel [1 Samuel 15:2-3]

6. Sending two bears to rip to shreds 42 young boys to pieces after his prophet Elisha sent a curse on the boys for…are you ready for this? Calling Elisha a “baldhead”. My god, what sinners!! I also imagine this story is not a favorite with youth groups in churches around the world.

7. God sending 10 plagues on the Egyptian people because God was upset at one person, their pharaoh for holding Jewish people as slaves in Egypt. One of the plagues was murdering all the first born children of every family in Egypt. [Exodus 7-12] Nice guy this God is.

In chapter 13 [“If God Is All-Good, Why Does He Put All of Us to Death?”], Bugliosi questions why if God is so good, why do all humans have to face physical death. Of course it says in the Bible why people die [because of sin], but Bugliosi wants to know what the connection is [between sin and death].

Bugliosi makes an interesting point as to why Christians go to churches/funeral homes to celebrate and praise God in the wake of someone’s death, when it was God who took that person’s life.

He says:

“There are three realities your literary and mental skills will never, if you believe in the Christian God, permit you to get around. First, God killed your loved one. Second, no one ever blames him for it and curses him. And third, by the mere fact alone that Christians then proceed to take the body of their loved one to God’s home and say the final goodbye to him or her there, they are by definition honoring the Lord for his handiwork.”

In chapter 14 [What’s So Great Up There In Heaven?”], Bugliosi asks why would anyone want to spend eternity with a monstrous, vindictive God? When answering what most Christians would say to God being monstrous in the Old Testament, which is “Well, that was the God of the Old Testament”, Bugliosi says, “What in the world does that mean? That the God of the Old Testament is dead? When did he die?”

Bugliosi then mentions that Jesus said that we must love him more than our own family. In Matthew, Jesus says that if anyone loves their father or mother more than Jesus, they are not worthy of being His. Bugliosi says that God/Jesus is obviously not perfect since he is so vain. Good point. Bugliosi then adds, “Why does God want or need or love? Why is it necessary? Doesn’t need imply absence? How can God be absent of anything?” Later he asks, “Can you really love not only a total abstraction [God], but one your fear greatly, more than you love your own wife, husband, son or daughter?” More great points.

Bugliosi points out another characteristic of God that should make him imperfect: jealousy. Deuteronomy 4:24 states that God “…is a jealous God”. Bugliosi adds, “God is actually jealous? Jealous of whom? You? Me? Danny DeVito?” Then he adds, “Christians find no problem at all with ascribing traits to God, whom they worship as being all-perfect, that they would vigorously denounce as very bad in their fellow man, such as being vindictive, cruel, vain, jealous, deliberately mysterious, and unwilling to lift a hand to prevent harm to another human being”.

In chapter 15 [“A Brief Descent Into Hell”], Bugliosi makes another great point. He says, “Isn’t the idea of the Christian hell of everlasting punishment completely incompatible with a God whom Christians believe to be “full of mercy” [James 5;11]?" He says Christians say “no” because God loves justice. Then he adds, “But if God is just and loves justice, justice connotes proportion---an eye for an eye…The very definition of justice is to give one his due. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Bugliosi makes another great point. He says [Since the devil, lucifer, is a creation of God], “Where in the world did Satan, the devil, thereafter get the unbelievable power to even compete on the same playing field as God?” He then says the bible seems to only mention that the devil tempts us to do evil, but in terms of directly causing evil, “the bible, believe it or not, seems to blame God”. Then he cites 3 bible verses to prove it:

Amos 3:6 “If evil befalls a city, has not the Lord caused it?”

Isaiah 45:7 “I make well-being and create woe. I, the Lord, do all these things”

Lamentations 3:38 “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and evil come?”

Bugliosi adds that the bible does not even mention where Satan acquired all his power. As Bill Maher stated in his movie Religulous, Bugliosi agrees, “Why doesn’t he [God] get rid of the devil altogether?" He closes the chapter with this question:

“If God chooses to allow the devil to continue to exist, knowing he’s going to tempt us into sin, isn’t God thereby making the devil his agent?”

In chapter 16 [“Praying to A Tree Trunk”], Bugliosi makes an interesting point concerning prayer. He says that if people pray and get what they prayed for and that alone causes them to think that God has the power to answer prayers, then they must simultaneously conclude that God ignores [therefore not a good God] millions of prayers of those who need him the most [Holocaust victims, AIDS victims, etc.].

Bugliosi asks why God ignore prayers for peace. He also asks, “Why isn’t this type of behavior [continually praying for things that never transpire] considered to be clinically psychotic?”

He adds that since God causes [or at least allows them to happen] events like Katrina and 9/11, why do people flock to churches after events like these and pray to him? He says, “Hasn’t God already shown by what he did or allowed to happen to these people that he couldn’t possibly care less about them? So why are people praying to him?”

In chapter 19 [“The Sense and Morality of Agnosticism”], Bugliosi poses another very good question. He writes, “If in using the mind he [God] gave us to reason with, we come to the erroneous conclusion that he does not exist, if God is a reasonable God, why would he forever punish us for our innocent lack of belief?”

The adds, “If God demands us to sacrifice our reason, which has been described as the highest attribute of man, to be with him, shouldn’t our reason tell us he is not worth our time?”

I realize this was an incredibly long venture into the book, but believe it or not, what I included here did not even scratch the service of the plethora of excellent questions and points Bugliosi makes. It was a book I could not put down because there was a thought-provoking nugget on every single page.

Christians will have no use for this book for several reasons:

1. It tells the truth about their unbelievably asinine beliefs
2. It prompts independent thought and reason
3. It attacks and refutes their beliefs [astonishingly in some points, using the Bible itself to do so]
4. It raises countless unanswerable questions

The book was fascinating and a must-read for any independent thinker and anyone in search of the truth.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Organized traditional cultural religion not only does not best represent who and what God is, but actually leads people further from the truth.

For example, you cannot find a Christian who is not convinced that they are going to heaven for their eternal reward in a mansion, but this concept is not biblically supported. Actually, according to John's Revelations, God intends to leave the heavens and live on the earth with Man. There are many such erroneous non-scriptural concepts taught by religion for hundreds of years.

It's difficult to find fault with VB's diatribe. He is extremely well-read and did considerable research for his book. After reading it (several times) I found myself saying "yeah, you're right, but..."

The big problem with VB's book is that, while his research was quite broad, it was not very deep. He refuted what organized religion interrupted the Bible to say, rather than conducting real biblical research. For example, Vince makes a big deal out of the fact that there are two dissimilar genealogies for Jesus. The reason that the genealogies for Jesus in the New Testament do not match or add up the same is because one is for Joseph and one is for Mary. Both are from David but Mary is not a descendent of Solomon.

A little digging would show many more examples but even this one demonstrates his lack of true scholarship. It's a shame. The book could have been more than it was. But in the end, it becomes only another straw man.